Travel Thoughts by Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together….to Wisconsin!
Let’s talk about Wisconsin. I spent some time there in September 2016 during our cross country motor home trip. My sister-in-law is from small towns in Wisconsin called Tomah and Tunnel City and she still has family there. We stopped in Tunnel City to pick up her sister to join us for the rest of the trip.
So, when you think of Wisconsin, you probably think of the Green Bay Packers, Oshkosh B’Gosh, and dairy products – especially cheese. Well, there is all that, for sure. But, I learned some very interesting things about Wisconsin while I was there. Like, did you know that Wisconsin is a HUGE producer of cranberries? It is a major agricultural product for the state where bogs stretch across the horizon and color every aspect of life in the community. That was the biggest surprise for me!
Warrens, WI – near where we stayed in Tomah / Tunnel City – is the cranberry capital, producing more cranberries than any other state in the USA. In fact, according to their Cranberry Discovery Center, “Wisconsin cranberry growers annually harvest enough cranberries to supply every man, woman, and child in the whole world with approximately 26 cranberries.” That’s a LOT of cranberries!!! Most people I talked to about seeing cranberry bogs in Wisconsin were also surprised, thinking that the New England states were where you most likely find cranberry bogs. Well, maybe so, but not as plentiful as in Wisconsin, where about 70% of the nation’s cranberries are harvested in the fall each year! And, while Ocean Spray’s corporate offices may be near Boston, they have multiple industrial sites in Wisconsin, including the one in Tomah, WI that produces 31 million pounds of dried cranberries and concentrate every year in that one facility, alone.
We visited some cranberry bogs and learned about how they grow and are harvested. It was all very interesting! I was disappointed that we just missed the active harvesting of bogs in the area – when we were there to pick up Donna, they weren’t quite ready and when we returned to drop her back home on the way back, most were done harvesting or just finishing up and weren’t actively gathering berries the days we were there.
So, here’s how it all works: The bogs are square areas recessed to look like shallow square plots of land. The cranberry plants are planted in the sand in these bogs to grow until they are ready to harvest. When ready – typically late September, early October or so – the bogs are flooded. The bogs have big ponds adjacent to them with a ditch all around the bog – the trenches are flooded from the ponds so that the water will gently gravitate into the bogs without harming the plants – no direct water pressure goes into the bogs during the flooding process. Once the bogs are flooded, the cranberry bushes are raked, causing the cranberries to float up to the surface of the water so they can be skimmed from the top of the water. Really cool! We toured a museum in the Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens and saw antique equipment that was once used to manually harvest the cranberries. Of course, now, they use mechanized equipment for the process.
Of course, we bought all kinds of cranberry products to bring home – cranberry wine, famous Wisconsin cheese with cranberry marbled through it, and much more. I also learned that fresh cranberries can be frozen without first processing them – I assumed they should be blanched or something before freezing. I also learned that you can tell the best cranberries by seeing if they BOUNCE – the very best ones will bounce – imagine that!
We spent a few days in the Tunnel City area visiting with my sister-in-law’s family and friends and did a few things in addition to the cranberry bogs. We had dinner at a wonderful Norwegian restaurant in Osseo, WI called Norske Nook Restaurant & Bakery that had the most incredible desserts. And, just down the street from the restaurant we saw a Hobbit House complete with a grass roof and a “For Sale” sign….wish I could have taken that souvenir home with me! Hehehe I also saw a really fun food truck – someone took an old fire truck and turned it into a mobile wood fired pizza oven – really cool or should I say hot!
When we left the Tunnel City area to continue on our Most Excellent Adventure, we stopped at the most impressive Veterans Memorial Park I have ever seen. The High Ground Veterans Memorial Park and is located in Neillsville, WI. There are memorials to all the wars that the US had any involvement in and the grounds are designed beautifully and include a large Meditation Meadow and memorial bricks, benches, etc. with the names of Wisconsin veterans. It was so beautiful – an absolute MUST SEE if ever in the area!
The first link below will take you to a post about the High Ground Memorial Park – please take time to check it out. The second link will take you to a post that includes multiple “mini-adventures” from our entire Most Excellent Adventure – it includes our time in Wisconsin, but also photos and stories from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH, the Mystery Spot in St. Ignace, Michigan, a Sculpture Walk in Sioux Falls, SD, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, Wall Drug in Wall, SD and some other quick little stops we made along the way…..so, lots of bang for your buck in that link, for sure…well worth the time to check it out!